This morning on Mike and Mike, they had NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash on to, kind of, rebut the comments made Wednesday morning by NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith, who also appeared on their show. It was about the ongoing CBA talks that could find us without an NFL season in 2011. One of the things that was brought up was a cap on rookie salaries. An argument that was made was that, out of the top 50 highest paid athletes in all of sports, 5 of the men on that list happened to be young men who were drafted in the '09 NFL draft (Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Darius Heyward-Bey, Tyson Jackson, and Jason Smith.) While I agree that this was a problem, I find the sticking point between the two to be absolutely insane. Pash agreed on two points with Smith, but disagreed on one other. First, $100 million of the money that WOULD have gone to rookies would instead be put into funding for retired players for pensions and health care. That was agreed upon by both. Second, they both agreed that more money should go to proven players. No problem with that. Here's the sticking point. The union wanted the rookies to only be allowed to sign a 3 year contract and become unrestricted free agents after 3 years, unlike the current system that doesn't allow it until after their 4th season. The NFL disagreed with this. Here are the comments straight out of Pash's mouth :
"That completely undermines the whole system of competitive balance in this league. It makes it impossible for teams to build and plan for the future. It makes it impossible to do sensible roster planning. It would so go counter to how the league has been built and be able to deliver the kind of quality entertainment on the playing field that fans have enjoyed that we couldn't accept something like that. And I can't believe the union would believe that we could seriously entertain something like that."
Greenberg asked how many years a player has be in the NFL, currently, before they become a free agent, which Pash answered 4. Then he continued with these comments:
"As you know, most players come into this league, especially high up in the draft, signing longer contracts. There are a lot of oppurtunities to extend, renegotiate, and things like that. And, in part, those oppurtunities present themselves because they don't become unrestricted free agents until, at least, 4 years. And usually longer out than that."
That was the response that was given and I can't say that his comments are anything more than completely and totally one sided toward the owners. Here's the problem with his "logic". First, rookies, usually drafted high up, only sign longer contracts with teams because they're being offered a TON of money. More often than not, you're not seeing 3rd rounders and below getting anything more than 3 year deals, allowing owners that "team option" that is restricted free agency. These owners want to lock up their "star rookie" for a long time and do so by throwing a lot of money in their direction. Second, the only people who have the oppurtunity to extend or negotiate a contract are THE OWNERS. Just take a look at guys like Darrelle Revis or Chris Johnson. While these guys were selected relatively high in the draft, they're looking/looked to renegotiate their contracts but the owners are/were holding out on paying them. Take a look at the Denver Broncos. They are notorious for forcing players to play out their rookie contract before signing them to any kind of deal. The only "negotiating" a player can do is to hold out. The only problem with that is that the players continue to pay fine after fine after fine, handing their contract money BACK to the owner until the player comes back. Third, how is it undermining the system of competitive balance? Considering MOST draft picks don't sign for more than 3 years, how does it make it impossible for teams to build and plan for the future? I mean, honestly, everything that came out of his mouth on this issue was pure NFL owner rhetoric.
Personally, I agree that there needs to be a rookie salary cap in place to keep losers like JaMarcus Russell, David Terrell, Charles Rogers, Mike Williams and Joey Harrington from being able to retire at the sweet age of 25. On the other hand, I have absolutely no problem with allowing players to become unrestricted free agents after their third season. If a team wants to keep a player, offer him more money after his second or third year. Do things for these players that would keep them around. As it is, owners have players over the hump anyway. With the fourth year being the "team option" called restricted free agency, it allows the player to either sign the one year tender, risk injury, and hopefully be an uninjured free agent (ask Javon Walker about that) or sign a long term deal with your current team because they're offering you a significant pay increase. While the current system isn't totally broken, it definitely needs to be fine tuned and the NFL needs to start taking the players into account instead of continuing to act as if what they're doing is in the best interest of the fans.
Another sticking point between the NFL and the NFLPA is the idea of adding two more games and subtracting two preseason games. In this aspect, I also side with the players. 18 games in a season is just starting to get out of hand. How many more games do we need in a season? How much more do we want to put these players at risk? If you're a Super Bowl participant, you would now have to play in a minimum of 21 games and a maximum of 22 games. That is A LOT of games for anybody to play through. Every year we're seeing more and more injuries. Adding two more games is just going to increase the amount of injuries. If they're so interested in delivering "the kind of quality entertainment on the playing field that fans have enjoyed", how could they possible encourage something that would increase the risk of injury to its star players? Because the fans would love two more games? Because the fans hate having to pay for four preseason games? Does the NFL honestly believe that fans are going to STOP watching football if they don't expand the regular season? No. Honestly, it's another attempt at a money grab. Two more games means two more weeks of ratings for CBS, Fox, ESPN, and NBC. Two more weeks of ratings for networks means more money for the exclusive rights to broadcast games. It's something that is completely unimportant and unnecessary. I guess $8.8 billion just doesn't stretch as far as it did 10 years ago.